How the Iconic Royal Oak Is Giving Rise to Fresh Watch Design

Prestigious luxury watches have led to more creative and accessible watches for all.

four watches on blue fabric
Henry Phillips

In 1972, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak showed that steel sport watches can be as elegant — and expensive — as their luxury counterparts. Half a century later, the cottage industry it inspired is having a moment: edgy design principles like octagonal bezels, exposed screws and bracelets integrated into the watch case itself have been reinterpreted by brands big and small, with surprisingly versatile results.

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Maen Manhattan 37
maenwatches.com
$640.00

Small brands like Maen are showing that you can get a solid product and features usually associated with five-figure watches — like integrated bracelet designs — for far less.

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Yema Wristmaster Traveller
yema.com
$849.00

You’ve got the octagonal case, prominent bezel and integrated bracelet, but Yema’s Wristmaster Traveler leans sporty.

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Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic COSC
frederiqueconstant.com
$2,195.00

An integrated bracelet doesn’t mean a watch can’t be versatile for formal or everyday wear. The Frederique Constant Highlife proves it.

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Atelier Wen Perception
atelierwen.com
$2,130.00

Raising the bar with a guilloche dial and refined design, this Chinese-French brand offers a unique and attractive interpretation.

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Zenith Defy Skyline
zenith-watches.com
$8,400.00

The Defy Skyline recalls the angular design of a Zenith watch from 1969, but it's reinterpreted for a modern feel and powered by an impressive movement inside.

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Hublot Big Bang Integral Time Only
$17,800.00

Hublot watches tend to offer bold interpretations of the Royal Oak concept, but this smaller, simpler model brings it a lot closer to the classic.

The Watch the Started It All

audemars piguet royal oak jumbo extra thin watch
Audemars Piguet

With the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet unleashed a new kind of luxury item on the world. Its design is iconic, inspired by nautical themes, but it also introduced the idea of the steel sport watch as a luxury item. Today, it's become a coveted status symbol beyond what even its creators could've imagined.

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